SHORTS FROM THE SHELF features short serialized fiction by author Shannon Muir, administrator of SHANNON MUIR’S THE PULP AND MYSTERY SHELF, that may be later released as part of e-book or print collections. The story line featured currently is “Darque Designs,” the sixth installment of the Myanna Moore serial, which will run over the next several weekends. This is Part One.

After she heard everything they had to tell her, Myanna still felt information to be missing.

“There’s one more resource I want to call on before we go forward. I am willing to vouch for this person with my heart and soul.”

“Who might this be?” Branwen asked. “We at the Order have a wealth of information on Darque, and yourself.”

“I need to reach out to my old mentor, the one who gave me the agency when he retired. He must have done a background check on me. He might have picked up something all of us missed. Right now, it’s crucial that we don’t make a mistake.”

After a bit more of debate, the group relented and agreed to let Myanna make that call. They supplied her a burner phone so she could not be traced.

Nervously, Myanna dialed a number known only to a select few. They hadn’t spoken since his retirement party. She hoped and prayed he would disclose to her everything he knew. Right now she needed truth and honesty that few seemed willing to give her. It seemed that it eluded Myanna her whole life up to now.

“J.B.”

She heard the old familiar voice on the line, comforting as ever.

“J.B., it’s the Champ. I need your help.”

“You know I am always here for you. What do you need?”

“You did a background search on me, right? Before you hired me? I need to know what you found. I can’t imagine someone like you just taking a person off the streets. You were too cautious when it came to business.”

Myanna found herself greeted with silence.

“J.B.?” Myanna asked, frightened. “You still there? You okay?”

“Yeah, I’m with you, Champ. There’s nothing I can tell you that you don’t already know about yourself. You told me a lot of it.”

“Did you know that the woman who raised me wasn’t my birth mother?”

The gasp on the other side of the line told Myanna she’d caught him off guard.

“Turns out I was swapped at birth, J.B., and that my father is really part of the people that I grew up fighting against.”

“I’m so sorry, Champ. Really I am. Sounds like you’ve had to share a lot lately. Have you told anyone else about the little one?”

“No! They’d never understand!” she responded fiercely. Then, in a more protective tone, she asked, “Is he okay?”

“My lil sister’s taking care of him just fine, Champ. But you seem very concerned, very stressed.”

Myanna realized she needed to ask J.B. a question, something she feared saying aloud.

“He’s not my first baby, is he?”

“I’m not sure how that came up, Champ.”

“I’m starting to remember things about my past, J B., and it scares me. I think I was married before, that my husband and I had a baby but someone took it. A lot of the people I’m up against, they know how to mess with your mind. It’s their stock in trade. Even some of my own allies could do that. But you’re a man of the facts, J.B. I need your clarity.”

“Champ, listen. All I knew was that my doctor friend I took you to said it wasn’t your first. I told her you’d seen a lot if trauma and I hadn’t helped.”

“So you lied to me, J.B.”

“I protected you, Champ.”

Myanna hung up, trying to hold back her tears. So much of her life had been lies.

As she walked back to join the others, Myanna began to reflect. She’d never gotten to know her birth mother. She had children that would never know her. The one thing everyone could not escape, though, was having a birth mother.

Even Darque.

Myanna broke into a run back to the library.

“What do you know about Darque’s mother?” Myanna cried aloud as she burst back into the library.

“That Edana isn’t his mother,” Lachlann said.

“Yes, I know that. I mean, do we know anything besides that? He was born Dudley Quinn. Was that his father or mother’s last name?”

“We don’t know,” Branwen admitted. “He appears to have left home as a teen. I’m not sure if he and his mother were close.”

“He sure seems to treat Edana the Extraordinary as a mother figure,” Searlas said.

Myanna pulled out her phone.

“I am going to ask J.B.’s clerk – well, my clerk now – to go do a little digging. It’s a long shot, but I am sure there’s a connection.”

All eyes stared at her as she dialed and then spoke to the office clerk at the agency.

“Hi, I need you to do some research for me ASAP. I’ll follow up in an hour. See if you can find anything on a Duana Quinn.”

Myanna hung up, and immediately came questions.

“Why do you think the name is Duana?” asked Lachlann.

“It’s my middle name. Darque gave me my birth mother’s first name. Maybe my middle name is his mother’s. Like I said, a long shot.”

“But a credible one,” Branwen agreed.

An hour later, Myanna called back as promised. She scribbled down some notes.

“I have a lead,” she told them.

“We’re ready to help,” Searlas told her.

“Thank you, but I have to face my own birth grandmother alone. Even if you are my grandfather.”

The smile on Searlas’ face said volumes.

“Come back safe, granddaughter,” he told her.